Burn, Baby, Burn(ing Man)

3 Sep

Burning Man is a world of its own.  If you haven’t heard of this crazy, week-long event (held in the desert at the end of August), here is a definition to explain the wild pictures and crazy outfits that are in this post.

What Is Burning Man?


Burning Man takes the harsh (and ridiculously dusty) desert environment and pairs it with 70,000 people who are willing, excited, and inspired to temporarily live in said environment for a few weeks.  They build radically interactive, COOL, BEAUTIFUL, GORGEOUS art (disclaimer: my pictures will not do it justice) and survive by building their own shelters, supplying their own food, water, clothing, transportation, entertainment, ect.  Cell-phone usage is rare to non-existant and HIHGLY discouraged.  And a cornerstone of Burning Man is that it’s a “leave no trace” event, meaning that just as we build this crazy community, we also have to take it down as if we were never there — an element that adds to the dreamlike nature of it all…Was it even real?  Luckily I have the pictures (and dust on all of my belongings) to prove it.


There are 10 principles to which Burners subscribe:

  1. Radical inclusion – Anyone may be part of Burning Man.
  2. Gifting – There is no bartering or money exchanged.
  3. Decommodification – No sponsorships or advertising.  Tickets (I’m talking tens of thousands) sell out in minutes, as soon as they go on sale.  Burning Man is not a music festival. (Although this year, Skrilliex and Carl Cox — two DJs for those of you who, like me, aren’t in the know — played, much to the delight of Mikhail and thousands of other people.  But these shows were not announced in advance.)
  4. Radical self-reliance
  5. Radical self-expression — So many fun, interesting styles!
  6. Communal effort
  7. Civic responsibility – Outside laws still apply.
  8. Leave No Trace — The desert will be left better than it was found.  This means, among other things, no glitter, feathers, or other foreign objects.  A pack it in, pack it out mentality.
  9. Participation – !!!!!!! !!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!! ! ! !
  10. Immediacy – One of my favorites.  Follow whatever is in front of you.


So hopefully this explains some of Burning Man… but really, it probably won’t because Burning Man is one of those things encapsulated by saying: You just had to be there. Anyway, this was my second time attending. The first was 6 years ago (2012), but this time was going to be different (aka I would be more prepared and it would definitely be more fun).  Brittny and Ricky were the reason I decided to go, they spent years convincing me on how much they would help ease me into the scene AND THEN THEY DID 🙂 The two of them brought supplies. Michelle and Scott helped, too!  They encouraged me every dusty step of the way.  And Natalie graciously brought an air mattress that she shared (thank you!).  It was because of these people that I was nurtured into this intimidating event; they were my gateways into Camp Gallivant and my saviers along with Jake (aka Cuddle Puddles), who literally saved my life.  If it weren’t for him I probably would’ve just turned into dust and became one with the desert (leave no trace, amiright?) in an entirely un-fun way.  But he provided EVERYTHING — a yurt, safe place to sleep, a respite from the wild sun, and most rejuvenating of all, friendship.



Mikhail and Brittny


It made the most sense for me to fly from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Reno, Nevada and then to take the Burner Bus to Black Rock City, Nevada (a city that only exists during Burning Man, aka a city that doesn’t exist for 50 weeks out of the year).

The Burner Bus was great.  I was so excited that we were about to experience playa magic. But in fact, the magic started on the bus before we even got there with everyone on board acting generous and friendly.



The “I haven’t left the airport” look.



Enjoy the running water while you can, Sammi.

My “Time” at Burning Man

Almost as soon as I stepped off of the bust into this arid artist’s desert city, I felt like like there was no time — only more continued moments of now. #deep #butforrealthough #whatistime.  Most things are unplanned (see Principle No. 10: “Immediacy”, follow what’s in front of you), but there was a hand-held schedule of events that was mailed to me (along with my ticket) and thus, I diligently went about reading the entire thing and making a list of everything that I wanted to do and see (even though of course I saw many more things than listed and I missed most what I had planned).  Here are some excerpts:

  • Rise and Shine Yoga
  • Delicious hot donut holes
  • Healing foot wash
  • It’s watermelon time
  • Knot tying workshop
  • Legit Hobby Horse Course
  • Joy climbing wall
  • Tutu Tuesday
  • Costco Soulmate Trading Outlet
  • And literally hundreds of other things happening ALL THE TIME

Once on the playa, and after seeing how my INCREDIBLE group set up their theme camp (REPPIN’ CAMP GALLIVANT), I got a sense for how much work, effort, forethought, and perseverance (especially in the desert climate) it takes to set-up. And once I saw that, it served to make me appreciate Camp Gallivant EVEN MORE!

What follows are excerpts from my Burning Man Odyssey — events, art exhibits, art cars, dust. things, and people who would beautifully and chaotically distract me on the way to nowhere in particular.


  • When the Burner Bus arrived on the playa we were welcomed on The Red Carpet, which was a carpet that was only red in name, and not in color.



You can be whatever you wanna be, carpet, you’re at Burning Man!


  • Being part of Camp Gallivant I had a role: Procure ice for the day.  FULFILLING IT WAS AN HONOR!! 

Welcome to the desert.


  • Natalie gave me a handmade rainbow scarf and a new notebook (thank you!!).  Sidenote: That notebook is totally filled with scraps of notes I wrote to Patrick telling him how much I wished he were there.  Soon come?


  • Mikail gifted me with random facts (for example, did you know if you want to say grandfather in Russian you just replace the Bs with Ds– babushka → dedushka). 
  • Michelle’s father, Firefly, also gifted Camp Gallivant and offered us flights over the playa (he’s a pilot). We got incredible bird’s-eye views of Black Rock City and I got to ride to Reno and back… The views were breathtaking and the company fantastic ❤  



Early morning beauty.



I’d add co-pilot to my resume… but I’d be lying.



The whole planet was here for Burning Man and put on quite the impressive art display.



The dunes being dune-lightful.



Burning Man, Burning Lake.



Pasting this picture next to the ‘co-pilot’ title on my resume.



Black Rock City from the sky.



Take me down to paradise city, please.


Here are some other standouts from my journey (once I got back on land, that is):

  • Everyone was so willing and ready to engage, so welcoming; making genuine eye contact was commonplace and wonderful.  (So many people at Burning Man have these gorgeous, light-colored eyes).  Alternatively, I felt understood, like I could leave a crowd at any moment with no hard feelings. 


  • Night dreams at Camp Gallivant, snuggling and staying warm; laying underneath that COOL SPIDER with a fire underneath its belly.  THANK YOU, TERRY.


  • Mikhail and I found our Burning Man theme song — “Up all Night to get Lucky.”  It’s not necessarily that we wanted it, but we heard it sung every way possible, ways we didn’t even know were possible (like acapella, country, and rock), repeated over and over again, all in a row.  So maybe I should say our Burning Man theme song found us.


  • I felt so much generosity and love from others and of course I wanted to dish out as much as possible too, so I accompanied Brittny to a Burners without Borders talk instead of going to a BBQ Tri Tip event that I had been desperate to attend.  IF THAT’S NOT LOVE, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS.



The inspiration for my LOVE.


  • Taking literal notes while talking to my guru, Michelle.


  • The time I ate a fancy, 3-course French meal in the desert.


  • I appreciated the continuous ‘thanking’ of various positions — like the Trash Removers — involved in the Burning Man community .


  • Meeting Glory, glory hallelujah when I was struggling to drink water and ride my bicycle at the same time because that’s hard.  My cup runneth over, and my heart was OVERFLOWING.


  • Meeting Allison Grey and getting to share with her.  I was also invited onto their art car, which in and of itself was pretty incredible, but I had to respectfully decline because I had plans with my Camp.  CAMP GALLIVANT ❤

  • The nights when we planned to reconvene at Camp “whenever we got cold” rather than at any specific time because, again, what is time?


  • During my adventuring, I realized that I’m more of a day-burner than a night-burner.  For me, Burning Man becomes overstimulating at night and after I realized that I mostly stuck to daytime activities.



Night time still has cool elements but day time is my preference.



Cuddle Puddles and Natalie


  • Nurse Kickstand (named that in conjunction with both her profession and with her innate ability to hold Scott upright) reiterated my belief that I’m normal.  For example, I was talking to her about how hard it was for me to swallow my vitamins, and she gave a great reaffirmation: “It’s hard for most people.”  See, totally normal.  It was also amazing to be around her infectious, pure, and wonderful laugh.


  • As I wandered the desert, Michelle told me what plug and play camps were — people could pay a group to set everything up for them; basically like a Burning Man hotel.  My goal was to sneak into one of them…and I ended up doing it!  — They had an incredible breakfast that included freshly baked chocolate chip scones. Desert??  More like dessert.



Sneaking into a camp with my new, international friends.



At Burning Man, rainbows bring in the morning.



And the playa is a rainbow at night.


  • I went to an event where I got a bowl of cereal but only AFTER I had offered up a “cereal confession” of sorts.  I’ll never tell what I shared.


  • I found tacos at Burning Man, which was pretty cool.  I also met Sir Who What and Tid Bit while I was in line.  They were great.  I followed them around for hours, going on my first full day’s adventure while rocking super cool red boots, a gift from Natalie. 

Sir Who What’s feet and my newly acquired red boots went for a climb.


  • The dust acts as both an equalizer and a cleanser, making everyone look white-washed and like they’re wearing an Instagram filter which is (happily) exacerbated by the very small amount of clothes attendees wear during the day.

Thanks to Brit, I got to participate in tu-tu Tuesday.


  • Remember how I’d had that list of everything I wanted to do? (Ha!


  • I did end up taking one “regular” yoga class.  But, in true Burning Man fashion there was a twist…my yoga teacher was dressed up in a shark head.  She was a great teacher and kept telling us how impressed she was with all of us!  The yoga class, as a whole, made her so proud that she started crying literal tears of joy (but she didn’t take the shark head off, which only served to add to my joy.). 
  • Speaking of joy….I GOT TO PARTICIPATE IN LAUGHTER YOGA!!!!!!!! 
  • LAUGHTER YOGA WAS THE BEST THING I DID ON THE PLAYA!  I did it four times, four days in a row.  My biggest regret is not going to class the very first day it was offered (but I was happily distracted thanks to Sir Who What and Tid Bit).  Laughter Yoga, like most things, is better when everyone (including me!) participates. 
  • I was five minutes late to my first Laughter Yoga session on the playa (#mistake) BUT THEN NEVER, EVER AGAIN.  I PLANNED MY ENTIRE DAY AROUND LAUGHTER YOGA, hanging out at my favorite nearby bar (DPW) until it was OFFICIALLY TIME TO LAUGH!  The leader of the Laughter Yoga sessions was awesome!  He was humble and modest, and if he had comment cards I would tell him not to change a thing except to MAKE IT LONGER!  


  • Throughout the day if anyone asked what my favorite thing was at Burning Man I’d say (or did I yell?) “IT’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN!!”. 


  • Laughter Yoga was my favorite place to make friends on the playa because you could tell how easily a person laughed BEFORE you befriended them! #lifehack   Michelle joked that if anyone came to the camp looking for me she would ask them to “show me your laugh!”  Which is amazing and how I’d like everyone to greet me from now on.  “Show me your laugh!”

Nicolina and the birthday boy (was his name Strawberry?).  Nicolina was my favorite laugher.


  • The friends pictured above are who I hung-out with on my last night.  We named ourselves Team Eventually Adventure.  Or, Rock, Paper Scissors.  We often called a roll-call so we (I) would’t get lost.  Yours truly was almost always scissors. 
  • Team Rock, Paper, Scissors (ROCK!, PAPER!, SCISSSORRRS!) needed a respite from the over-stimulating lights and night sounds so we went looking for a camp that was dark and quiet.  We stumbled upon one with a gentle light up teddy bear sign out front and several empty benches that looked like they were glowing.  This camp also had a cave-like area that seemed to be fairly protected from the elements, great!  Just what we were looking for.  Giggling non-stop from our adventures, we stepped inside.  As our eyes adjusted, we could see that there was a mass-pile of soft, giant teddy bears skewed about all over the floor.  Nice. Hopefully we could use these as pillows.  But before we jumped onto the pile, we let our eyes adjust more and we slowly realized that THIS WAS ACTUALLY A PILE OF PEOPLE SLEEPING IN SOFT BEAR COSTUMES. I mean… WHAT?! Taking the furries to the next level.  We started whispering the news to each other and got really quiet, backing away cautiously, just as you’re supposed to do when you encounter a cave full of bears.



Safely out of the woods, with my human friends.


  • By the end of my time at Burning Man, I was having so much fun that I almost missed the Burner Bus back to the airport.  I miscalculated how far away our camp was from the terminal and Ricky sweetly offered to bike me (and all of my stuff) to the station.  We made it on time but not before the two of us toppled over while scrambling to catch the bus. Everyone was fine and it definitly made the journey more memorable. As Molly would say, “The fun is in the rushing!”.  Thanks to Ricky for helping me not to get abandoned in the desert! 

“Thank God!” is right!  It’s a jungle in the desert.


  • When I got back to the airport aka ‘the default world’, I could tell who had just been in the desert (and not only because they had just gotten off of the Burner Bus with me but also) by their dirty legs, interesting outfits, and most notably, their shoes. 
  • I started the deep de-dusting of all of my possessions outside at the airport, since I had 12 hours before my plane departed.  A couple of white clothing items had to be thrown away (see those white overalls in an above photo), but others I methodically wiped down and beat out the dust.  I had just started this MASSIVE undertaking when one guy saw me and said, “Give it up!” Ha!  Two hours later, I was really grateful I had taken the the time to do it. I love taking care of my belongings! Note to self, it was an important part of my 2018 post-Burning-process to de-dust all of my belongings at the airport. 
  • My final thoughts before I slept on the floor of the airport were ones of gratitude: ‘Are airport stalls and toilets always this clean?’.  And ‘Wow, how good does it feel to wash your hands with warm, running water?!’  (‘ooo, girl, wash those hands!’)


Least favorites.

  • Playa names (these are names people use solely for Burning Man). For some, I think they like the anonymity of theses names.  For me, I felt like it didn’t create long lasting connections and only served to further the ephemeral encounters. 


  • Before I found Laughter Yoga I struggled to find enough laughter on the playa. There was joy and generosity (SO MUCH GENEROSITY IT WAS MIND BLOWING! Especially from Camp Gallivant and specifically JAKE!  I CAN NEVER MENTION ENOUGH HOW GRATEFUL I AM FOR JAKE! ❤ ).  That being said, unfortunately, outside of my camp, I couldn’t find people who shared my same sense of humor. It’s probably there.  In fact, I’m sure it’s there.  But I didn’t find it (until Laughter Yoga came along).


  • How sticky some of the men could be. (#notallmen but let’s not derail the issue.)  The Burning Man environment encourages openness — it’s an absolute pleasure for me to be easygoing, happy, and engaging.  That’s my default, for those of you who know me, AND I LOVE IT.  But I found, even at Burning Man (where I thought I could be myself), I had to be careful (read: more closed) about sending the wrong message with my very pure (I stand by that) interactions.  Lame! I think a lot of it has to do with how I look, as I discussed at length with my seatmate on the Burner Bus who followed up with me after.  My bubbly, respectful personality was misinterpreted.  Friendship intimacy was mistaken for romantic intimacy by a married guy in a monogamous relationship (smacks face).  Come ON.  In the end, we had a healthy adult conversation (which, as a compliment to him, was not the case with lots of these stories) where he listened, apologized, and encouraged me “not to change just because he misinterpreted” which was sweet and heartening.  J****, if you’re reading this, we did have a happy ending but I’m writing about this inappropriate interaction because it was personality-suppressing, exhausting, unnecessary, and far too common.


  • It’s always easier for me to send boys away when it’s for my team, I get super protective.

On the Burner Bus.


  • The lack of women friendships that I developed.  I realized towards the end of my Burn this was the case and, once I realized it, focused on making it a goal (helloooo Laughter Yoga). Outside of Camp Gallavant, men were easier to meet and more readily available, but I’d like to find some of those desert gal pals!  #Lessonsforthefuture 
  • The effects of the elements on my skin, eyes, nails, and legs.  It was sooo tough out there; It’s difficult to imagine living in the desert for any longer than the five days that I spent there.  My whole body needed to be soothed (but my mind was happy!). 
  • The intensity of the night-time lights and music.  As I said before, it was overkill for me.  When I did stay up all night I couldn’t wait for the daylight to come and make the stimulation stop.  It was a total overload. 

Not a good example of the overload,…look how cool this moving art piece is!


List of Things I’d Want if I Came Again:
…Does That Mean That I Would?!

  • More bike lights (can’t have too many)
  • Carabiners
  • Cute boots (thank you, Natalie, for those red ones!)
  • A strong, fancy coat for at night with fur and lights — think outrageous
  • A cup with a handle and ID attached
  • A traveler’s outfit — I saw a girl that looked like she was going on a safari.  Dark green jumpsuit. Bandana accent cloth around head… Need I say more?
  • Multiple pairs of goggles. One for the day and one for the night. Possibly ones that will fit over my glasses?
  • Gifts to remember the interaction. I’m thinkin’ stickers with contact info…
  • And Bam, remember, for better or for worse, the playa destroys.



The more lights the better!



The End of an Odyssey

Burning Man is a difficult environment to be in, you really end up understanding just how much effort it takes to survive in these elements.  That might sound dramatic, but it’s true. Burning Man is hard. But, with that being said, Burning Man is also a bunch of sexy humans who embrace the outdoors and harsh environment #rugged and allow it to inspire them artistically and spiritually.  Everything about Burning Man — the people, the art, the cars, the values, the interactions, the sand — is beautiful. In 2018, Black Rock City captivated me.

Overall, I enjoyed the earlier days of this Burn the most because of all of the people who had put in hard work.  And all week I took advantage of “Radical Inclusion”; Everyone is constantly sharing and offering up invitations (that I gladly accepted!).

As I was at the Reno airport, leaving Nevada, I saw a girl turn on her phone after a week of having it off in the desert.  “What happened in New York?” her friend asked, to which the girl responded, “I promise you, nothing more interesting than what happened at Burning Man.”  I couldn’t help but agree; It was a fascinating week.



And just like that…



We were gone.

2 Responses to “Burn, Baby, Burn(ing Man)”

  1. Scott Greene November 29, 2018 at 6:11 pm #

    We SOOO enjoyed our time hanging out with you Sammy! Your energy, sense of humor and beautiful smile was a joy to experience and infectious to us all. Hopefully, we’ll get to do it again: someday, somewhere, somehow. We love you dearly! Scott and Michelle

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